[dropcap]I[/dropcap]f you want to understand a man, pay attention to his belt,” my grandfather once told me. “You’ll learn a lot about him.”
It struck me as an odd statement. I was only a boy at the time.
“Looky here,” he grabbed his belt. “This stays with a man through everything. Forget his shoes, look his belt.”
He patted his buckle. “Got this in 1926. Picked it up in town, after my daddy died. I bought it five sizes too big. I wanted to be sure I had plenty to grow into, and I only wanted to spend my money once.”
He laughed. “I punched holes in it to make it fit.”
I looked at the old leather.
He told me he wore that simple thing nearly every day of his adult life. He wore it to school, or with a pair of slacks to church. He wore it to bail hay – the old fashioned way. He wore it to play baseball.
He had it on when he sang over the radio, and when he first danced with my grandmother.
He wore it to his wedding.
The belt was snug around his waist when he enlisted. It was with him in Europe, and when they awarded him a Purple Heart. When he gave my mother piggyback rides, and when he changed the oil in his Studebaker. He even wore it to his wife’s funeral.
And when he and his redheaded grandson sat on lawn chairs, eating sunflower seeds by the fistful.
He had it on then too.